Iran’s Policy-Making Process
Introduction: Facts about Iran
Iran is a Middle Eastern country located to the north of the Persian Gulf and South of the Caspian Sea. Iran shares borders with Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan. Iran covers a total area of 1, 648, 000 square miles and has an estimated population of 80, 840, 713 million (Alipour, Hafezi, Amer, & Akhavan, 2017). Iran’s chief of state is Ayatollah Khamenei and the president is Hassan Rouhani who had held the position since 2013. Its capital city is Tehran with an estimated 7.304 million. With regard to the system of governance, Iran has had an Islamic theocracy since 1979.
The question of whether Iran is a democracy or an authoritarian system is a tough question to answer. The country is said to be a democracy but it is not entirely democratic. Currently, Iran’s politics adopt a framework that combines both presidential and theocracy democracy. In theory, a democratic system of governance is inscribed in the constitution but in some ways, they are not a democracy. At one point, Iran was a complete democracy in 1952 where they elected Muhammad Mossadegh. However, after two years, he tried to nationalize the oil industry by putting it under the control of the government. Currently, the formation of the Iranian government begins with the citizens who elect a president and 290 members of parliament every four years. Additionally, the citizens also elect 86 individuals to serve as members of the Assembly of Experts after every eight years. Once elected, the president has to appoint 22 cabinet members to be approved by parliament. As such, Iran can be described as both a presidential and parliamentary democracy system because citizens decide who joins parliament and who becomes president. Iran can be classified as a gray zone as evidenced by some of the tools it employs including having proxies and surrogates in countries across the Middle East, and the use of Quds Force. The proxies and surrogates are armed actors that support how Iran projects power in the region. These actors have already developed local legitimacy in communities in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq hence allowing them to become social and political actors.
Iran is a unitary system that is Islamic with one legislative house. Iran’s 1979 constitution put Iran in a system of government that is mixed whereby the judiciary, executive, and the parliament are overseen by various clergy bodies. A rahbar meaning leader doubles as the head of the state and still oversees the institutions. The authority and duties of a rahbar are equated to those of a head of state. A unitary system contributes both negatively and positively to towards the policy-making process. Among the advantages is that legislation of laws happens more quickly and the power government has clear cut powers. Additionally, unitary systems often respond quickly to emergencies and citizens are more informed and less confused about the system of governance. Further, unitary systems have a smaller government which makes them less costly to run. On the other hand, unitary governments cause a detachment in the citizens’ needs and lead to hyper centralism which has to do with overreliance on the central government. Additionally, unitary systems often lead to dictatorship
Iran’s decisions are made in line with the country’s constitution. The Islamic Republic of Iran has a constitution that was adopted in 1979 in a referendum held on the 2nd and 3rd of December. The constitution which is still in use today replaced the Constitution of 1906. To date, the constitution is referred to as a hybrid of the democratic and theocratic elements. While the first two articles vest sovereignty to God, article six warrants popular elections for positions of parliament, presidency, and the Majlis. Article one stipulates that “The form of government of Iran is that of an Islamic Republic.” Nevertheless, the main democratic procedures, and rights are subordinate to the Supreme Leader and Guardian Council who powers are also stipulated between articles 107 and 112. Iran’s constitution has been amended once; on 28th July 1989. The first legislature and executive were formed on 14th March 1980 and 5th February 1980 (Juneau, 2016). Worth noting, some aspects of Iran’s constitution cannot be altered, for instance, the government’s democratic character, the republic’s objectives, the Islamic nature of the laws and the government, Ummah’s leadership, and its administration.
The institution that holds primary policymaking power in Iran is the executive particularly the Supreme Leader of Iran. His status is that of Head of State and he works closely with the elected president. Although the president is in charge of the day-to-day running of the county, he does not decide the general guidelines of the domestic and foreign policy of the country, and neither does he command the security organs and armed forces. This authority is vested in the hands of the Supreme leader as vested in the constitution. Through the clerical commissar’s system, the Supreme leader is bale to monitor state policies. The Iranian government has various restrictions begin with the fact a President cannot run for office for three terms combined. Further, Iran has an intricate set of balances and checks and for this reason, it is likely that the government will get hung up during times of crisis. Regarding the judicial review, Iran’s judicial restrictions are subjected to limitations such as Precedent where cases are decided based on the laws and findings of prior cases. They are required to follow precedents set by higher courts. The council of guardians comprises twelve jurists; six are appointed by the parliament while the rest are selected by the Supreme leader. The council of guardians is tasked by the constitution to interpret the laws and decide if the laws are in line with Islamic law. This means that the council or guardians holds veto power over parliament. The Iranian government has a limitation on the confidence vote. The Islamic government is formed on the basis of religious guardianship and the constitution regards Islamic contents of the revolution including the nature, conditions, and limits of the duty pointing that the vote of confidence can be sought from the Assembly of Council of Ministers.
The legislative branch of the Iranian government has two components namely, a unicameral parliamentary chamber known as the Islamic Consultative Assembly and a reviewing power. Without the existence of simultaneous existence of the Guardian Council, the Parliament does not have legal status. Hence the existence of the Council is a condition for the efficiency of the legislative power. This is because the bills that are passed must be submitted to the council of enactment. The Unicameral assembly representatives are selected via multi-seat vote where 290 representatives are elected to serve four terms. The candidates are approved by the Council of Guardians. The executive Branch is selected through democracy in elections where the head of state is selected to serve a four-year term. The chief of state, that is the supreme leader is selected by the Assembly of Experts. The cabinet, i.e., Council of Ministers are elected by the president and approved by the legislature. The supreme leader also has control over some ministries and appointments. The President serves four years and cannot run for three terms while the Supreme leader serves a maximum of eight years. Iran’s executive has extensive power of emergency decree particularly in the case of accidents and other emergencies where every person has a right to medical attention and health. Bureaucracy plays a vital role in policy legitimating and policy formulation in Iran. It has proved effective in reforming the regime of politics following that the country has is among the oldest bureaucratic empires in history. Without a doubt and just like other nations, Iran continues to battle various problems with corruption in both public and private sectors taking center stage. To eliminate the problem requires a powerful system of political nepotism and patronage pervading all sectors of the economy. With many Iranians suffering the effects of a floundering and mismanaged economy, the Iranian regime has attempted to blame the distress of its citizens on going by the suctions implemented in countries like the United States. Iran has an intricate set of balances and checks and for this reason, it is likely that the government will get hung up during times of crisis. Regarding the judicial review, Iran’s judicial restrictions are subjected to limitations such as Precedent meaning that they made decisions based on prior cases, and from the deliberations, it is evident that the inputs fail to match the outputs. Despite the many strategies placed by the government to improve the lives of its citizens, its efforts have not emerged as successful.
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Juneau, T. (2016). Iran’s policy towards the Houthis in Yemen: a limited return on a modest investment. International Affairs, 92(3), 647-663.